My Bag


My name is Jameela Jamil. Welcome To I Weigh Community.

Two years ago we started an Instagram account to try to create a safe and radically inclusive space on social media. A lot of us want to help others and change the world for the better, but don’t know where to start.

Activism can seem daunting. Sometimes it’s just hard and lonely. At I Weigh Community, we don’t believe it has to be that way. We believe in brick-by-brick activism, and making a difference in large numbers. We’re going to have to come together and do this as one to really shift the narrative of our society.

I Weigh Community will introduce you to new voices, artists, activists and movements. These are the people we believe we need to listen to. We are still learning, and we’re inviting you to come and learn alongside us so we can all grow together. It’s never too late to want to help and understand each other better.

This movement is so important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

Jam x

Stepping Out Of My Chronic Illness

The first time I met Cleo, she was cowering in her cage. She had a yellow tag on the front of her kennel, which meant I had to discuss the dog’s needs with a staff member before taking her on a walk. When I asked what I should know about Cleo, they told me that she was “extremely shy because she had been through a lot.”

Well, that was something I could resonate with.

I had signed up to volunteer at a local dog shelter a few weeks after I was hospitalized for what I would later learn was a rare disease called vasculitis. Vasculitis is an autoimmune disorder that causes blood vessels to become inflamed and attacks organs, such as the lungs and kidneys, which can induce organ failure. Like many autoimmune diseases, not much is known about what triggers it. Prior to hospitalization, I dropped out of university due to my undiagnosed symptoms and felt like a complete and total failure. I cried nearly every day up until I made this decision. Numbness, pain, hives, insomnia and anaphylaxis-like episodes scared me, as did the fear that I would never get better. Both my parents expected me to thrive in school and yet here I was, defeated because my body decided to attack itself.

I felt numb. Physically, my vasculitis symptoms left me feeling like my body was crushing itself. Emotionally, I felt like a monster had inhabited my body, which stemmed from the insecurity that I had with my appearance. I shrieked when I looked at my reflection and saw that I had broken out in hives or was very swollen. I also felt like collapsing, although I could not tell if this was more from my depression or from the disease which made me want a new body. 

For as long as I could remember, I prided myself on being someone who could juggle many different responsibilities, so not being in school or being able to work made me very depressed. I have always loved dogs, so volunteering at a dog shelter seemed like a good thing to keep my mind off of things. What I didn’t expect was caring for someone else who went through a traumatic experience helped me put my own life into perspective. 

Helping these dogs proved that I was stronger than I imagined.

On my first day, I spent some time trying to gain Cleo’s trust. Like many dogs at the shelter, Cleo was a mutt, but I think she definitely was part black lab, medium-sized with soft black fur. I didn’t know what had happened to her, and she didn’t know what I’d been through either, but we were going to go on a walk together. 

I had a soft spot for Cleo. A month later, I walked up to Cleo’s cage, she jumped up and down, and her happiness was radiating. I had helped her build her confidence, and her trust in meeting new people, despite what she went through.  She was ready to conquer the world, emotional scars and all. If I had met Cleo for the first time that visit, I would have never been able to guess the hardships that she went through and what she had to overcome. Cleo was soon put up for adoption, and I was so proud of her. While I supported her, watching Cleo’s journey also helped me find hope that my life will get better despite my chronic illness struggles.

I also had reasons to be proud of myself, both physically and emotionally. When I was released from the hospital, I felt like my body was dead due to mobility issues and severe fatigue that I was experiencing. It was a piece of waste that was not capable of doing anything and neither was my college-dropout self. The dogs who I cared for made me dismiss these notions that I had about both my physical and emotional strength. In part, wanting to make them happy pushed me physically, like going on longer walks, and it was helpful that they did not care if I was breaking out in hives.

Caring for these dogs helped me feel valuable. They made me fall back in love with my body again. My body was capable of helping dogs, even if I was still recovering from a bad autoimmune disease flare. I was not a failure, and anytime I had thoughts creep into my mind that would try and convince me otherwise, seeing the joy on the dogs’ faces dispelled them.

My experience also helped me see myself as being more than a chronically ill person.

Being at the shelter was the only time when I didn’t feel like a patient. Outside of going to the dog shelter, I was mostly at the hospital seeing endless doctors or hanging out with concerned friends when they were in town. Focusing on these dogs helped me see that I had a lot to offer to the world despite being sick. 

Four months later, I wrapped up my volunteer gig at the dog shelter in suburban Massachusetts to start a new chapter in New York City. I first entered the dog shelter worrying that I wouldn’t even be strong enough to take dogs on walks, and I left feeling like a capable person. Both in the physical sense and knowing that I’m emotionally strong for pushing through curveballs that my autoimmune disease had thrown at me. 

I’m trying to figure out how to conquer the world. My emotional scars from becoming chronically ill have not healed, but I am learning to love my body again. Developing a chronic illness takes a mental toll as much as a physical toll, and I had to heal both my mind and body. While coping with a chronic illness is different for everyone, other people will illnesses could benefit by finding something they feel comfortable and confident doing that would take their mind off of their illness even for a little bit. In my experience, turning outwards was beneficial to my inward growth. As silly as it may sound, I wish I could give myself the pep talks that I gave Cleo the first time that we were together.

“I believe in you, and you’re going to have such an awesome future.”


  • Julia Métraux is a journalist whose work has appeared in Narratively, The Tempest, BUST, and Briarpatch Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter at @metraux_julia and read more of her work here.

    Photo Credit: Thomas Chan

  • Joanna Seul is a Korean American illustrator from sunny California. She enjoys making work that is honest and that can help people, encouraging them and connecting them through shared experiences despite their different walks of life.

    Photo Credit: Sarah Im